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Vistas of NC: Who Owns the View?

North Carolina's views are often protected by the efforts of area land trusts who work to secure land and protect it from development. (Doug Kerr/
North Carolina's views are often protected by the efforts of area land trusts who work to secure land and protect it from development. (Doug Kerr/
February 11, 2016

TRYON, N.C. - On an average morning thousands of North Carolinians wake up to the sight of a dusting of snow on area mountaintops.

And while individuals can own much of the land, the state's 25 land conservancies are working to protect the views for everyone to enjoy.

They're guided by the principle advocated by Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote "None of us owns the landscape,” in his essay "Nature."
Pam Torlina, director of stewardship and land protection with the Pacolet Area Conservancy, says everyone owns the view.

"They do belong to us," she says. "Such a big part of our sensory experience is visual and so by protecting these places, it protects the signature of our rural communities."

Land conservancies in North Carolina have protected tens of thousands of acres of land with the help of public and private funding.

The Pacolet Area Conservancy is actively working to preserve land in Polk County that previously had been considered for land development that would have changed the landscape.

Late last month, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina purchased 75 acres in Alleghany and Surry counties to protect views on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Peter Barr, trails and outreach coordinator with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, says it's often the views that tie people's emotions to the region.

"It's something that you can look at from any mountain top or any overlook and you essentially feel that attachment to this region," he says. "And you feel that sense of ownership and belonging of what you love most."

Torlina says the scenic vistas that bring visitors to the state and bring joy to residents are taken for granted, until they disappear.

"They are so important to the peace and tranquility that we always find in place, when it's taken away, it ruins it for us," she says. "Sadly a lot of times the developers move so much quicker than land trusts can."

Torlina adds that in addition to protecting the views by conserving land, land trusts such as hers protect water resources and native plants and wildlife.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC